The Presidential campaigns have been raging for just over a year now. The GOP has their candidate, even if a certain former Governor hasn’t gotten the memo, and the Democrats are still in a horse race. What has been most intriguing to me during this primary is how Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton have been seen in the media.
I was a senior in high school when Bill and Hillary were on the path to the White House the first time. I was proud and quite surprised that the country was embracing this strong feminist of a woman. It seemed odd to me that so many people were embracing the idea of having a hands-on First Lady. Of course, I knew that she wouldn’t be the first. In the fourth or fifth grade I was obsessed with First Ladies. I even made a zine of them and highlighted my favorites: Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jackie Kennedy. Having grown up with some pretty wimpy First Ladies – Barbara and her books and Nancy and her guest appearance on Diff'rent Strokes telling us to “Just Say No.” I was more than ready for a First Lady who looked like she was ready to change the world with the platform she would inherit. I still kick myself that I never got my hands on any of the “2 for 1” or “Vote for Bill, Get Hillary for Free” T-shirts that I recall seeing on the news.
Fast forward 15 years (dear goodness! It’s been 15years since high school?) and we working moms find ourselves in a rather odd situation. The woman that many of us heralded as our second President is now running for President herself. We witnessed Hillary Clinton attempt to reform our health care system, attend the 1995 United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing under a very feminist mother banner, and try to raise Chelsea away from the media’s prying eyes. She redefined the definition of working mom. The wife of her main opponent is also a working mom, one about whom I’ve heard many women say, “I wish she were running!” If Michelle Obama does have time for baking cookies, my money is that the Pillsbury Dough Boy is helping, too.
Michelle sat down with Katie Couric last week and Katie asked her the big question for First Ladies: What will be her cause? (By the way, why is it that "running" for First Lady sounds a lot like "running" for Miss America?) Michelle responded with this:
"[T]here are a lot of things that I care about. I mean, I am a mother -- and a professional, and a wife. And I know the struggles of trying to balance work/life/family. And I know that it's something that every woman that I know is struggling with -- and every family in America is impacted by the challenges that we face when we try to do it all -- without resources and support informal and formal structures of support. The only way that I manage every day is because of all these informal support structures in my life, whether it's my mom or a set of girlfriends or the flexibility on a job because I'm a vice-president and I can set my hours when I need to. I've managed because of that. But how on earth are single-parent mothers doing it, nurses and teachers and folks who are on shifts? People who don't have access to decent childcare? You know, all of this takes an emotional and psychological toll on women and families."